Shipwreck could hold key to radioactive waste

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A shipwreck 1,800 years ago in the Adriatic Sea might give scientists at Pacific Northwest National Laboratory in Richland, Wash., better information about how well modern glass might work to contain radioactive waste.

The Department of Energy is building a $12.2 billion vitrification plant at the nearby Hanford nuclear reservation to glassify radioactive waste before it is buried deep in the ground.

The glass, formed from the waste and glass-forming materials, is planned to keep the radioactive waste secure for thousands of years. But until recently, the longest test on a piece of manmade glass holding simulated radioactive waste has been about 25 years.

Thanks to the shipwreck "we can use data points Romans thoughtfully started for us hundreds of years ago," said Joseph Ryan, a senior scientist at the Department of Energy national laboratory in Richland.

He and scientist Denis Strachan, a laboratory fellow, are taking an atom-by-atom look at ancient glass to see how the glass has held up to corrosion.

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